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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Feeding the Sheep, written by Leda Schubert and illustrated by Andrea U'Ren. Farrar, Douglas & McIntryre. $19.95 ages 3 and up

"What are you doing?" the little girl asked.
"Drying the wool," her mother said.
Windy day, wool ballet."

Leda Schubert has this to say about her new book:

"I interviewed sheep, sheep farmers, spinners, weavers, and knitters. But I didn’t really think of Feeding the Sheep as a book about the process—I thought of it as a book about the love between a mother and daughter."

I call this type of book 'faction'; it tells a story that is steeped in factual information. It is about raising sheep, caring for them and using what they provide to make life better and sustainable. And, it is a picture book that will delight its readers!

It begins in a farmyard with snow falling and a small child asking her mother a question. As the young one plays, the mother works hard to make sure that the sheep are well-fed and healthy. The snow disappears and the next double-page spread shows the mother with scissors in one hand, a sheep in the other and a young daughter peeking out from billowing clouds of sheep fleece. The 'what are you doing?' question is answered in clear and simple terms. As the wool is washed, dried, carded, spun, dyed, knit and worn, the year passes by. In the final spread, the tables are turned and the mother is the one asking the question of her child, who has learned enough now to be of some assistance. It is a warm and reassuring tale.

Life on a small farm is pastoral and satisfying for this mother and child. The pets are constant companions as the work is done and reflected in the shared harmony of mother and daughter. As Mom washes the wool, the child encourages the dog's bath. As Mom cards the wool, the daughter grooms a relaxed and contented dog. The dog chases his tail, the cat preens and the child does endless somersaults for entertainment. On that day when Mom is finally finished too are the child, the pets and a sedate teddy bear.

Each new activity sparks a question and elicits a short rhyming answer. The brightly colored and detailed artwork provides a visual display for each part of the process. The love between mother and daughter and the patience in answering each new question is evident in every spread. There is much play, and it is shown in the antics of the pets and the young girl as she delights in the learning that is taking place.

Meant to inform and entertain, this book hits just the right note for all who will share it.

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